The Revelstoke Grizzlies won both of their games last weekend despite being forced to play with a short bench both nights.
“It’s nice to see we’re still progressing forward and we’re still making positive steps,” said coach Randy Quakenbush following the weekend action.
The Grizzlies, missing five players due to injury, defeated the Creston Valley Thunder Cats 7-5 on Friday and the Osoyoos Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday to stay within reach of the Kamloops Storm for the division lead with only eight games remaining in the season.
The team played without defencemen Reid Blinkhorn, Darnel St. Pierre and Braden Seyl; and forwards Kent Hendrickson and Riley Creighton.
“Everybody right now was precautionary, with the exception of Seyl,” said Quakenbush.
Friday’s game was a thriller, with 12 goals total as Revelstoke got revenge for a loss to Creston earlier in the month.
“We felt that team owed us two points and we were motivated to get them back,” said Quakenbush.
The Grizzlies jumped out to a 3-0 lead, with Riley Spraggs scoring in the first period and Kyle Schwartz and Spraggs adding a second early in the second.
Spraggs completed his hat trick before the period was out but Creston scored twice in the frame to make it 4-2 heading into the third period.
Revelstoke had to lay it on the line to hold the lead in the third, especially with an already short bench further shrunk due to automatic game misconducts for fighting to TJ Christensen and Jordan Bledsoe and a misconduct to Cole Sanford.
In fact, for a brief stretch in the third period, Revelstoke was down to five forwards and three defencemen due to penalties.
Still, Revelstoke managed to hold on, with Michael Roberts scoring twice, including the game clinching empty-netter with just over a minute left.
Saturday saw Revelstoke come out with a 4-2 win over the Osoyoos Coyotes – the team that eliminated the Grizzlies in the conference finals last year.
“It’s always an emotional experience in the dressing room prior to a game against Osoyoos,” said Quakenbush. “We remember what they did to us last year, knocking us out.”
Roberts got Revelstoke on the board early, scoring less than a minute into the game. After that, the teams settled into a tight affair, with Thierry Martine tying the game for Osoyoos five minutes into the second.
That’s when Revelstoke’s top line of Spraggs, Bledsoe and Schwartz took over. First, Schwartz gave Revelstoke a 2-1 lead with a shot from in close. Then Spraggs swatted home a rebound to make it 3-1. Final, after Osoyoos made it 3-2, Schwartz sent in Bledsoe on a short breakaway. Bledsoe deked out the Osoyoos goalie to seal the 4-2 win.
This week Revelstoke has three games against divisional rivals. On Wednesday, the team takes on the Chase Heat. Quakenbush said he will use the game to dress some affiliated players to give his players a chance to heal.
On the weekend, Revelstoke takes on the Kamloops Storm on Saturday and the North Okanangan Knights on Sunday. Both games are on the road. Kamloops is four points up on Revelstoke for the division lead while the Knights are only four points back of the Grizzlies. All teams have played 44 games.
“In our push for first place this weekend coming up is going to be critical,” said Quakenbsuh.
It will also be the first game between Revelstoke and Kamloops since the line brawl between the two teams in November. Quakenbush said he will make sure the team focuses on winning and not what happened last game.
“The punishment we’re going to deliver to them will be hopefully overtaking them for first place,” he said.
He added that the team will focus on improving its special teams in preparation for the playoffs later this month.